In the Classroom: Crookhorn College

Author Joe Craig talks to students at Crookhorn College. Picture: Amy Wood
Author Joe Craig talks to students at Crookhorn College. Picture: Amy Wood
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The author of the Jimmy Coates book series gave a lively talk on writing at Crookhorn College, writes Amy Wood from the school.

More than 250 Year 7 and 8 students were treated to a visit by musician and writer Joe Craig, who gave a two-hour presentation to a group of 11 to 13-year-olds.

The highly-rated author of spy-adventure books constructed story outlines from scratch, using ideas given to him by his creative audience.

Joe demonstrated the three types of conflict in every story, using examples from the everyday to the bizarre. Laughter and applause filled the main hall from start to finish.

Joe described his remarkable journey from studying philosophy at Cambridge University, to playing in a one-man band, into writing books for children. The author also interacted with students during an interesting question and answer session. During this, he quashed the concept of ‘inspiration’ and the thought that an idea will suddenly ‘strike’ you. Instead, Joe believes you need hours of hard work and determination to write a book, or follow any other career ambition. At the end of the talk, students rushed to buy Joe’s books and had the opportunity to get them all signed.

Students at Crookhorn have seen 11 different authors in the past four years alone. This has included author of the contemporary Tarzan books Andy Briggs, the 2014 Hampshire Book Award winner Chris Bradford, and Alex Rider author Anthony Horowitz – and next year they will see the Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman.

Quite often, Crookhorn’s visiting authors follow up by running workshops with smaller groups of students, focusing on how to generate ideas, construct plots, develop characters and write under time pressures. The workshops are sometimes before exam periods as a novel way for students to revise for English language and literature GCSEs.

Anna Wood, Crookhorn College’s librarian organises the visits and said: ‘They are a fun way to build upon students’ English skills.

‘Authors are great role models and encourage our students to read more widely and for enjoyment.’

Headteacher Grahame Sammons said: ‘It is important for students to be able to hear directly from an author about the way they develop their ideas for stories and what motivates them to write in the first place. There was a great atmosphere throughout Joe’s talk.’

What the pupils say...

Reuben Honeychurch-Turner, Year 7

‘I really liked Joe’s humour and his attitude. I really want to read his books now, I’m going to borrow them from our library.’

Sheldon Cotton, Year 7, 11

‘The author was hilarious and mad. My favourite part was when he was talking about stories and their problems: Impending Doom, Let’s make it Personal and The Inner Demon. I am reading The Monster Calls in English, so I tried to figure out the problems in that story.’

Ryan Sheehan, Year 7, 11

‘I loved the Joe Craig visit because he made me laugh. He taught me that every story book character has a problem and he either succeeds or fails. I bought his book called Blackout because it looks fantastic! I can’t wait to read it!’

Rachel Ashby, Year 7, 11

‘When he answered the question about inspiration, it showed that you don’t have to be great at coming up with ideas. You have to have determination and the will to persevere. He came up with short stories from random ideas, which showed me simple ideas make funny and crazy stories.’

Alissa Headley, Year 7, 11

‘He didn’t enjoy English as a student but now he is an author! I find this inspiring as English isn’t one of my best subjects but it gives me determination. I can’t believe Joe managed to put Mickey Mouse, giant tomatoes, smashed water melons and a sister-eating hamster into one story!’